This is one of my all-time favourite weekend’s of the National Hunt season, bringing with it a race which has been kind to me down the years, in the shape of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.
A small but select band of hardened chasers going at it hammer and tongs for 3m 1f around Wetherby’s left-handed galloping track – what more could you ask for on a Saturday afternoon? Predictably it’s a no show for War Of Attrition who’ll continue the comeback trail on more forgiving ground, but no matter, it’s got more than enough key characters to make it a cracker.
Favourite with the sponsors is none other than Ollie Magern, already a two-time winner of this race in 2005 and 2007, the 10-year-old is something of a cult figure at Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Gloucestershire base, and a big favourite of mine having paid for my holidays last winter with a bold display in this very race.
No doubt about it he is a star, and they’ll raise the roof if he can make it three, and there’ll be plenty willing to take the 11/4 with the Twiston-Davies team in such rich form, but since he’s lugging a 10lb penalty around this year I’ve a suspicion it might be time to etch another name on the trophy.
No, not Manchester City, and not Turko either, as while I do believe the six-year-old can mature into a top rank staying chaser as the season progresses, the youngest horse in the field might have to give best to a more experienced rival. It’s also worth pointing out he pulled up in this event last season, and having ended up on the deck in the National last time out, we’ll look elsewhere.
Plenty of punters will be happy to snap up an each way friendly price of 6/1 about the winner of another bet365 sponsored race, in the form of veteran Monkerhostin, third in this race 12 months back, and who keeps finding a happy excuse to postpone his retirement at just the right time – proven by his 25/1 win in the old Whitbread Gold Cup back in April. A wind op saw return him to best effect that day, but that was in a race that’s becoming something of a back-number among the top chases, and I think we’ll oppose him with a horse who has form at the track, and loves nothing better than returning to the job after a lengthy holiday.
With those clues I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that the horse carrying my hard-earned will be Evan Williams’ 2006 Hennessy winner State Of Play – a totally different proposition when he’s a fresh horse, and a decent second in the race 12 months ago.
This strapping eight-year-old son of Hernando was sent off favourite here last year, and showed a liking for the track which this time around could well provide his first win for two years, especially since this season he can re-opposes Ollie Magern a mighty 16lb better off. State Of Play is reported to be a stronger horse this year, and having summered well, this race can provide the launch pad for a more consistent campaign. Yes, his 2007/08 form beyond the Charlie Hall was nothing to yell about, but he’s got so much going for him heading into this race, with ground on the quick side of good unlikely to harm his chances, and the Williams stable firing in the winners from all angles, I’m happy to take a slice of the 7/2 on offer at <>a href=”http://www.betting-directory.com/bookmaker-bet365.php”>bet365.com.
Tom’s Weekend Tip
3:35 Wetherby (Saturday) State of Play to win @ 7/2